Inside the Chamber of Secrets - A Walk inside CST
Frederick William Stevens lies buried under a nondescript gravestone in the Sewri Christian Cemetery. Among the many notable individuals who lay here, this man's contribution to the city of Bombay is far more noticeable than anyone else. For, F.W. Stevens was the architect of many of the more prominent buildings of Bombay.
Years ago, when we started the Exploring Fort walk, we would begin with an interesting story of the Mulji Jetha fountain on Mint Road. Early participants, I remember, were quite puzzled by my excitement of telling the story of a small rundown fountain, with a dome topped by a young boy reading a book. The source of my fascination was the fact that it was designed by Stevens. The same architect who gave us the Victoria Terminus or the CSMT - the current headquarters of the Central Railway and one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city.
|Notice the different types of headgears denoted in the panel|
A walk around this magnificent building will introduce you to the grandeur of Stevens' imagination. The might of the empire and the worth that the Great Indian Peninsular Railway attached to this terminus. Built over a period of 10 years and completed in 1888, this building also marks the significance of the coming of the railways 35 years ago. When the first train from Boribunder to Thane on the 16th of April 1853, Lord Dalhousie must have been elated at the success of his experiment. But little did they know, the unification of the country even though exclusively for trade would result into coming together of individuals across India to unite against the British.
The story of Railways, the architectural marvels of the building and the exquisite artwork adoring the walls, quinches and corniches and the arches will make you dizzy. For Rs. 200 per person, this well guided walk through the corridors of one of the most important buildings in India is one memorable experience that every citizen and visitor of the city must have.
The tour is conducted between 1400-1700hrs. You simply need to turn up to the small gate after the main gate, towards DN road and buy a ticket. The walk begins with a tour of the museum that brings to life the various facets of Indian Railways and its origins, the guide then leads you to the main foyer where a majestic stone lion holding the coat of arms of GIPR awaits you.
The tour also introduces you to the octagonal dome which is a marvel to be seen to believed. As you walk over the unsupported circular staircase, you wonder what it must have been to be present here in the times of the Raj. The first floor foyer balcony that overlooks the BMC building and the junction of DN Road and Mahapalika marg was my personal favourite of this walk. The Central Railways has also made an interesting heritage lounge where tea and snacks are served to participants. Complimentary, of course. The walk ends with a visit to the spacious dining hall and the forecourt where the tour is concluded.
I could have included many details that the tour introduces you to but this post is not about that, this post is to encourage you to head to CSMT and experience it for yourself, on a weekday. It is absolutely worth it.
And did I mention, I got a 50 % student discount on my college id? There you go. More reason for students reading this to make a trip to this magnificent structure.
Stevens must be proud and content.
Some photos from the walk: (Photos by Rithika Kumar)
|Mr. Xavier - our guide in action|
|Fanboy moment with F.W Stevens|
|A rare view|
|Coat of Arms|
|Another Rare View|
|Everyone Scrambled when it Rained|
|Chai and Conversations - Heritage Lounge. Check out the fans.|
|Minton Tile Pose - #StoryCity|
|Scholars on a Visit.|
|Lady of Progress|
Rushikesh Kulkarni is a heritage enthusiast and leads walks across various neighbourhoods of the city he calls home. If you'd like to organise one for your students, team, friends or yourself - reach out to us on 9820023362.